• quentin wheeler

    Meet the World’s Most Notorious Taxonomist

      In 2005, the taxonomist Quentin Wheeler named a trio of newly discovered slime-mold beetles after George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney. He believed the names could increase public interest in the discovery and classification of new species, and help combat the quickening pace of extinction. (Species go extinct three times faster than […]

  • Van Turkey frozen falls

    Don’t Believe the Hype: Winter Does Not Begin Tonight

    Tonight, at 11:48 PM Eastern Time, is the moment of the winter solstice, when the Northern Hemisphere is pointed as far away from the sun as it ever gets. It will be the longest night of the year, and tomorrow will be the day with the fewest hours of sunlight. As most people know, this […]

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    How Radio Enthusiasts Are Listening to Earth’s Secret Symphony

    Stephen McGreevy looked nervously at the sky. Outside his camper van in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, angry black clouds gathered on the horizon as 30-mile-per-hour winds whipped across the flat expanse. At his feet, an array of copper wire—hundreds of feet of it—writhed like snakes. As rain beat against the roof, McGreevy hastily gathered the […]

  • Parkes peryton signal bottom hero

    6 Graphs That Showed Landmark Discoveries—But Were Later Debunked

    It begins with the smallest anomaly. The first exoplanets were the slightest shifts in a star’s light. The Higgs boson was just a bump in the noise. And the Big Bang sprung from a few rapidly moving galaxies that should have been staying put. Great scientific discoveries are born from puny signals that prompt attention. […]

  • operating theater white coats

    How White Came to Be Synonymous With Clean and Good

    White has a physical purity. White light contains roughly equal amounts of every color in the visual spectrum, and activates all three types of cone cells in our eyes related to color. As a result, we perceive materials that don’t absorb color, and reflect light back to us, as achromatic—white. The union of white and […]

  • van Gogh infrared

    Looking Through Paintings to See What’s Hidden

    This post originally ran on Facts So Romantic in May, 2013. There is more to the world than meets the human eye, a fact that hit home for the 18th-century astronomer Sir Frederick William Herschel when he discovered infrared light—a wavelength of light that lies just outside the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. We can […]

  • new horizons one earth message

    Can “New Horizons” Bring a Crowdsourced Message From Earth to Aliens?

    Now that New Horizons has completed its flyby of Pluto, the spacecraft is on a long journey to become the fifth manmade object to leave the solar system. It does so carrying some curious human artifacts: a Florida state quarter, an American flag, and one ounce of the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto […]

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    A Visual History of Humanity’s Exploration of Pluto

    Before I could string full sentences together, I used to wander outside past my bedtime. I would push open the sliding glass door and immediately look up, searching for stars sprinkled beyond the silhouetted trees. At the time, I couldn’t even begin to comprehend what I was seeing. Instead, each beacon of light represented a […]

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    How Science Helped Pen the Declaration of Independence

    This classic Facts So Romantic post originally ran in July, 2013. On July 4, 1776, representatives of 13 colonies on the eastern shores of North America signed a Declaration of Independence from England. Winning independence was still a bloody war ahead, an unlikely outcome. Declaring independence was rashness, potentially carrying a death sentence for treason. Not, perhaps, what you […]

  • Sharon Jones walking to boat hero


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